Quebec forest fires continue to rage out of control

August 10th, 2018


QUEBEC – The situation was still critical Friday in central Quebec as a dozen forest fires continued to rage out of control – forcing residents of two native reserves to flee.

Quebec’s forest fire protection agency, the Sopfeu, said 62 fires were burning across the province Friday morning and 14 were out of control. More than 29,000 hectares of forest have so far been destroyed.

The Abitibi region, in northern Quebec, and the Haute-Mauricie region, located north of Trois-Rivieres, are the two provincial hot spots.

The recent heat wave in Quebec has increased the risks of forest fires and lightning has also sparked fires.

As well, the forecast for hot and dry conditions for the next few days isn’t encouraging firefighters.

The Sopfeu also noted20 new fires flared up overnight Friday.

The fire protection agency has 14 water bombers, 50 helicopters and more than 800 firefighters battling the flames across the province.

It has requested reinforcements from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and two water bombers from Manitoba have landed in Quebec. The state of Maine said Friday it is sending 21 firefighters to help battle the wildfires.

One of the biggest blazes in central Quebec forced the evacuation of more than 1,300 people from the Wemotaci First Nation reserve, located some 300 kilometres north of Trois-Rivieres.

The residents were taken by bus Wednesday night to nearby La Tuque and bunked down at the school or with friends, family or at the hotel.

"There’s room for everyone to sleep, that’s good news," said Transport Minister Julie Boulet speaking to reporters in La Tuque Thursday. "We’re here should other needs arise and we will support these people so their stay is the most comfortable possible, considering the circumstances."

The fire was still at the village’s boundaries Thursday and a thick cloud of smoke covered the region. "There’s smoke over an area of 100 kilometres by 100 kilometres," said Jacques Raymond, spokesman for civil security in the Mauricie region.

The provincial police said fire damage in the Wemotaci Atikamekw reserve was limited to a home and a shed. The evacuation order was still enforced and the road that leads to the village remained closed.

Authorities are also keeping their eyes on fires near the reserves of Obedjiwan, where about 70 residents were evacuated, and Manawan, as well as the village of Parent, all in central Quebec.

Late Thursday provincial police said a preventive evacuation of 300 people was taking place in Manawan, involving people with health or mobility problems and pregnant women.

They were bused to Joliette where they were to set up camp in a local arena.

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Toronto police make first arrests after banks vandalized

August 10th, 2018

At least one person has been arrested in connection with anti-G20 graffiti spray-painted on Toronto banks overnight.

Vandals spray-painted slogans such as “Resist G20″³ and “Stop G20″³ on bank walls, windows and ATMs.

As many as six banks were targeted in the Spadina and Dundas and the Spadina and College areas. The suspect reportedly rode a bicycle between his targets around 3 a.m. Investigators hope to learn more by reviewing security footage.

At least one person has been charged with mischief, according to reports.

“It’s quite clear that the billion dollars that’s spent is not there to protect taxpayers, it’s there to protect Stephen Harper’s photo-op,” city councillor Adam Vaughan said Friday morning.

“It’s just wrong. It wasn’t just the banks that got tagged – it’s … small businesses that got tagged.”

Mr. Vaughan, whose ward will likely be seriously affected by security surrounding the world leaders’ summit, expressed frustration on Thursday that the federal government will not be compensating homeowners or businesses for property damage sustained during the G20.

“The Prime Minister’s office has got to revisit this policy now,” Mr. Vaughan said. “I don’t understand the federal government that won’t protect its own citizens.”

A Royal Bank branch in Ottawa was also firebombed last week. No one was injured; initial estimates suggested the vandals caused $300,000 damage. On an independent media website, the perpetrators warned they are also headed for the G20 in Toronto.

That incident is cause for even more concern, Mr. Vaughan said. Many of the buildings are extremely old and vulnerable to fire, and low-income residents live above shops in the area, he stressed.

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Ottawa won’t pay for G20 damage: councillor

August 10th, 2018

The federal government says it will not pay for damage suffered by property owners as a result of protests against the G20 meeting next month, according to Toronto Councillor Adam Vaughan.

In an email released by the councillor, a member of the Summits Management Office writes that damage caused by third parties, including vandalism, will not be compensated.

"These types of damages are insurable under normal insurance coverage," wrote Effie Triantafilopoulos, deputy director and special advisor G20 liaison.

"This is absolutely unacceptable," Mr. Vaughan told reporters at City Hall on Thursday. "They’re bringing this party to town. They know what accompanies this sort of event, and for them to walk away from small businesses after they spent $1-billion on themselves is an absolute disgrace, and Stephen Harper ought to have an answer for those small businesses."

He said city staff had been negotiating with the federal government on how costs would be covered when they learned of this development.

Leaders of the G20 countries will be meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 26 and 27, protected by a fenced-in security perimeter in the downtown core. Mr. Vaughan has long argued that the event should have been held at Exhibition Place.

He said the city had tried to convince the federal government to post a bond in advance to cover the costs incurred during the event. He added that in the Entertainment District, businesses "can’t even get insurance for plate-glass windows because of the behaviour of club kids, so these people are in a more vulnerable position."

The summit’s website details what may and may not be covered by the government. Businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals living or working inside the security zone and who suffer financial loss as a result may be eligible for compensation. For those outside the zone, but who do business in it, certain claims may be eligible, the website states.

In addition to vandalism, the government will not compensate damages for personal injury, damages for emotional stress, "amounts that can be paid out by means of another instrument, such as statutory or regulatory scheme, Treasury Board policy, program, grant or contribution" along with private security measures "as security agencies will be providing the required security."

The estimated cost to police the G8, in Huntsville, and G20 summits is approaching $1-billion. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Mayor David Miller said Ottawa is paying for the G20.

"Ottawa is covering the costs of the G20, period. The city is not on the hook for them, so it’s up to them what they deem to be a cost," he said. "Property damage is between the individual properties and Ottawa."

He said there is an agreement with the federal government that they will cover Toronto police overtime.

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Temporary stadium no easy ride for Lions’ fans

March 23rd, 2019

"When it was overcast, the fans were snotty. All you heard was, why don’t they have a better facility? Or comfortable chairs? How about someplace where you don’t get rained on or covered in pigeon guano?"

– Bob Ackles, talking about Empire Stadium, in his biography, The Water Boy

With a respectful nod to late B.C. Lions president Bob Ackles, Friday’s blustery, autumnal weather was a reminder that a return to outdoor football and old-timey touches might take some getting used to for the modern fan.

The 27,500-seat temporary stadium at Empire Fields that will be used by the Lions for the 2010 season and possibly half of the 2011 Canadian Football League schedule is a throwback to simpler times. In truth, however, complications abound in the return to the dreamy football field of memory at the corner of Hastings and Cassiar, which was the team’s home from 1954 to 1983.

The move, made necessary by the $458-million refit to BC Place, will require thousands of fans to change the transportation patterns they’ve used for the past quarter century. According to TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis, about 30 per cent of fans traditionally took SkyTrain directly to Stadium-Chinatown station, a short walk from BC Place. Now, those spectators will have to consider taking alternate bus routes, carpooling, ride sharing, walking or cycling to football games.

As a cold wind and rain sprinkles stirred ghosts of Empire’s past, Jarvis, Pacific National Exhibition president and CEO Michael McDaniel and Lions president Dennis Skulsky held a joint news conference at parking lot 16, across from the stadium, stressing the need for new commuting habits.

"This isn’t on a rapid transit line," Jarvis said. "We’re certainly trying to remind people that buses moved people effectively in and out of here when figure skating was on at the Olympics. It worked. So we don’t want people to think the bus alternative isn’t effective."

The first test is scheduled for Sunday, June 20, five days after the facility is handed over by the PNE, when the Lions play the Edmonton Eskimos in a pre-season game. McDaniel said the stadium will have 150 Port-a-Potties and another 13 washroom trailers, fully plumbed with hot and cold running water, strategically located around the stadium.

McDaniel said the stadium will open two hours before game time so fans can learn the ins and outs of the new park, where it won’t be tough to maintain that old-time feel.

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Here are some bus routes suggested by TransLink to get to games at Empire Fields:

No. 10 from downtown Vancouver or Kootenay Loop

No. 135 from Burrard Station or Burnaby

No. 28 from Phibbs Exchange (North Vancouver) or from Gilmore SkyTrain Station

No. 16 from downtown or 29th Avenue SkyTrain Station to Hastings and Renfrew

Rideshare (visit: 杭州桑拿按摩论坛 to register)

Coast Mountain Bus Company provides "special event" shuttle buses to 29th Avenue Station after each game

Want Google’s help finding a way on Transit? Click here and replace the default departure point with your address.

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HST petition reaches referendum target

March 23rd, 2019

With just six weeks to go for those campaigning against the BC Harmonized Sales Tax, organizers are claiming an early victory, with 83 of 85 ridings reporting at least 10% signature threshold.

Elections BC requires 10% of the population sign petition to trigger a referendum.

Fight HST organizers believe they’ll reach 15% in all ridings by the second week of June.

“There is nothing more to wait for,” says Fight HST lead organizers Chris Delaney. “There is no need for a referendum, no need for more delays and wasting of taxpayers’ time and money. The petition has become a referendum.”

Delaney says the petition’s success makes it clear British Columbians don’t want the HST.

Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm wants the BC government to cancel the HST immediately.

“The people of BC are waiting for you to act on their behalf,” says Vander Zalm. “Failure to do so will result in you becoming the first premier in Canadian history to be fired by the people in a Recall.”

Vander Zalm was BC Premier from 1986 to 1991, but was forced to resign for conflict of interest.

The anti-HST petition will be submitted on July 5 to Elections BC, which will have 42 days to check the petition.

Once the petition is validated, Fight HST hopes the legislature will reconvene in September to vote on the bill to repeal the HST.

Vander Zalm says if the BC government votes it down or tries to play games by delaying it or going to a costly and time wasting referendum, then his organization will immediately begin recalls in selected ridings.

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Harper heads to Europe for G20, G8 setup meetings

March 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper jets to Europe next week for separate meetings about the global fiscal crisis with the leaders of Great Britain and France.

Harper, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy will likely spend a significant amount of time discussing the crisis prompted by the near financial collapse of Greece. The country’s debt problems have prompted fears of another global credit squeeze.

The meetings will also be a chance for Harper to build some consensus on some policy objectives with two key European leaders ahead of next month’s G20 and G8 summits, which Canada is hosting in Toronto and in Huntsville, Ont., respectively.

"Both the United Kingdom and France are important members of the G8 and G20 and (Harper) intends to raise with both leaders his view that the G20 summit should focus on recovery from the global economic and financial crisis," Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s director of communications, told reporters Friday.

One key issue for the G20 summit to resolve is whether there should be some kind of levy applied globally to banks and financial services companies that could be used to pay for any future bank bailouts.

Sarkozy and Cameron favour this idea but Harper is vehemently opposed to it.

"There is general agreement with the principle that taxpayers should not bear the costs of rescuing the financial sector," said Soudas. "But there are obviously different opinions within the G20 on the issue of a bank tax or a levy. Countries have varied approaches for dealing with the cost of the financial crisis. As we’ve said all along, there is no one-size-fits-all solution."

Earlier this month, Harper sent a letter to all G20 leaders asking, when they come to Toronto at the end of June, they be prepared to commit to some benchmarks on the fiscal health of their national governments.

Harper, along with many other world leaders and central bankers, is worried that rising debt and deficits of some of the world’s largest economies will derail the global economic recovery.

"We now need to reassure markets not just that we’ve been prepared to intervene when we had to, but that governments can run responsible and sustainable balances over the long term," Harper wrote. "The levels of deficit and debt in many countries are reaching levels that markets judge to be unsustainable."

A senior Canadian government official involved in the discussions with other countries on the fiscal crisis said Harper’s letter appears to have struck the right note with G20 members.

"Certainly the feedback from finance deputy ministers and (G20) sherpas has been very positive on Prime Minister Harper’s letter," said the official. "The identification of the need to elaborate clear and more credible fiscal consolidation plans is increasingly recognized."

Sherpas are designated bureaucrats or emissaries who represent each G20 leader in talks leading up to the actual summit.

Harper will be the first foreign leader that Cameron will meet as prime minister, a role he took over on May 11 after his country’s May 6 general election. He leads a coalition government of Conservatives – Cameron’s party – and Liberal Democrats.

Harper has met Cameron before, as the leader of the British Parliament’s opposition.

World leaders, central bankers, and financial investors have been concerned about the fiscal probity of countries like Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain, but there are also concerns that giants like the U.S. and Japan must also provide credible assessments of their return to sustainable government fiscal policies.

"We can confront our fiscal challenge with clear and realistic plans for fiscal consolidation, or we can wait for markets to dictate the terms for us," Harper wrote.

Harper departs for Europe next Wednesday. He will meet Cameron on Thursday over lunch at 10 Downing Street and will meet Sarkozy the next day in Paris. He returns to Ottawa Friday evening.

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Sod turned on Circle Drive South project

March 23rd, 2019

Nearly a century after a ring road in Saskatoon was first discussed, work has begun on the last piece of Circle Drive.

On a rainy Friday morning, Mayor Don Atchison was joined in Diefenbaker Park by Premier Brad Wall and Conservative MP Stockwell Day at the official sod turning for the Circle Drive South project. At a total estimated cost of $288 million, it is far and away the most expensive public project ever in Saskatoon.

“This is a moment in history,” said Atchison.

“The Circle Drive South project, including the new south bridge, will finally make Circle Drive a complete circle. It will allow our citizens get to where they need to go faster and more efficiently, and connect our east and west end communities. With tremendous support from the federal and provincial governments, we have improved the connectivity and cultural well-being of our city, now and into the future.”

Cost of the project is being shared between the federal government ($96 million), the provincial government ($98.5 million), the City of Saskatoon ($93 million) and the Rural Municipality of Corman Park ($200,000).

The South Bridge project includes:

– A bridge across the South Saskatchewan River north of the CN bridge;

– Seven kilometres of four-lane freeway leading up to the bridge; the bridge will be six lanes;

– Interchanges at Idylwyld Freeway, Lorne Avenue and Valley Road;

– Once the city’s population hits 250,000, the bridge is expected to carry close to 30,000 vehicles per day;

– Benefits include an estimated 35 per cent reduction in traffic on the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge during afternoon rush hour;

– Some truck traffic would be diverted off 22nd Street West.

“This is one more step the provincial government is taking to support the growth of our major urban centres,” said Wall.

“This massive project will improve the flow of traffic in and around Saskatoon, improve efficiency for shippers to connect with national and international trade routes, reduce congestion and enhance safety.”

Among the benefits being touted by government officials are shorter commuting distances and a 35-per-cent reduction in traffic on the Sid Buckwold Bridge during afternoon rush hour.

City council in March awarded the contract to build the bridge, freeway and interchanges to joint-venture Graham Construction-Flatiron Construction Corp. for a guaranteed $224 million, a price estimated to be between $30 million and $40 million under budget.

The price was also $47 million less than any of the other bidders.

The new south bridge is expected to open October 1, 2012.

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G20 Transit and Parking Restrictions

February 23rd, 2019

Driving into and around Toronto, public transportation and parking will all be affected during the G20. Global News will post updates frequently about how these restrictions will impact Torontonians on the go.


To keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible, a traffic management strategy has been created to guide vehicles away from the security perimeter surrounding the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Click here for full details of the G20 security zones and fences.

This perimeter is not a fence; it is the point at which vehicular traffic will engage with a Toronto Police Service officer.

Roadways within this area – bordered by King Street, Yonge Street, Queens Quay and Spadina Avenue – will experience closures or restrictions.

Anyone living, working or having a specific purpose and destination within this perimeter will not be denied access. However, this engagement with officers may take some time and those seeking access are asked to exercise patience when doing so.

Other road closures may occur to accommodate marches or protest activity. These will be communicated as soon as possible through numerous mediums.

Routes in and out of the downtown area – including the 400-series Highways, the Gardiner Expressway, the Queen Elizabeth Way and Lakeshore Boulevard – will not be closed. However, there will be intermittent restrictions on Highway 427 and the Gardiner Expressway to accommodate motorcade travel. On Saturday, June 26, and Sunday, June 27, 2010, these restrictions will be ongoing throughout the day and significant traffic disruption is anticipated.

In addition, the York, Bay, Yonge Streets exit on the eastbound Gardiner Expressway will be closed on Friday, June 25 and Saturday, June 26, 2010. The York Street ramp onto the westbound Gardiner Expressway will be closed on Sunday, June 27, 2010.

All traffic management details are subject to change. Members of the public can expect significant traffic disruptions in the downtown area and are encouraged to take public transit and listen to their local media for the latest information.

Union Station

Union Station will be open during the G20 Summit. However, from the evening of Friday, June 25, 2010 to Sunday, June 27, 2010, exits to Front Street will not be in use. Travelers will have to exit using the east or west side of Union Station. In addition, the Blue Route between Union Station and the Air Canada Centre will be open.

During this time, no vehicle traffic will be permitted on Front Street, west of Bay Street. A temporary "Kiss & Ride" and a temporary "Taxi Stand" will be located on Front Street east of Bay Street. Motorists wishing to access these locations should approach northbound on Bay Street from Lakeshore Boulevard West.

Traffic disruptions will be significant in this area and members of the public are encouraged to use public transit or the pedestrian walkways to go into or leave Union Station.

In addition, should security reasons dictate a securing of the perimeter prior to Friday, June 25, 2010; the above changes to Union Station will also be in effect at that time. Members of the public are encouraged to listen to their local media for up to date information.

Public Transit

The TTC is operating regular service during the G20 Summit. There are no planned service restrictions to the subway and only a few surface routes will be on diversion from the evening of Friday, June 25 to Sunday, June 27, 2010, unless security dictates otherwise.

The 6 Bay and 72A Pape routes will be on diversion during the entire summit. The 97B Yonge and 503 streetcar route will be on diversion on June 25, as those two routes do not operate on weekends. As well, both the 509 and 510 streetcars will not be stopping at Queen’s Quay station.

Any changes to TTC services will communicated as soon as possible and customers are encouraged to register for TTC E-Alerts, visit 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活, and listen to their local media for the most up to date information in the event of unplanned disruptions.

GO Transit will be operating regular services during the G20 Summit.

Any changes that may be implemented to GO Transit services will be communicated as soon as possible and regular users of the system are encouraged to listen to their local media and visit 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活gotransit杭州夜网 for the most up to date information.

VIA Rail Canada will operate its regular train schedule for the period of Saturday, June 26 to Sunday, June 27, 2010. VIA Rail wishes to advise customers planning to travel by train to or from Toronto during this period that both departing and arriving trains may be delayed and to plan their travel accordingly. As more information becomes available, VIA will post updates on 杭州桑拿按摩论坛杭州夜生活 Customers are encouraged to visit this website before their travel dates for the latest information.


The underground PATH system will be closed from the evening of Friday, June 25, 2010 to Sunday, June 27, 2010 and will reopen for its regular hours of operation on Monday, June 28, 2010.

If security reasons dictate a securing of the perimeter prior to Friday, June 25, 2010, the underground PATH system will reflect closures. Members of the public will not be able to exit the PATH system into the security perimeter, nor will they be able to enter the PATH system from the security perimeter once it has been secured.


From Friday, June 25, 2010 to Sunday, June 27, 2010, there will be heightened enforcement of parking in the downtown area, particularly for the area surrounded by Queen Street, Yonge Street, Lakeshore Boulevard and Spadina Avenue.

There will be extremely limited parking to no parking available on the majority of streets within this area. In addition, there will be no parking on streets that have been closed to accommodate parades and protests.

All parking regulations for No Parking, No Standing and No Stopping will be strictly enforced. Vehicles may be tagged and/or towed. Members of the public who find their vehicle has been towed are encouraged to call 416-808-2222 for further information.

Ferry Services

The Integrated Security Unit has been working closely with agencies involved in the governing and policing of Lake Ontario to develop a comprehensive marine security plan for the G20 Summit.

This plan, to the extent possible, takes into consideration interests from all parties involved and tries to have the least possible impact on the day-to-day operations of Torontonians, including those living and working on Toronto’s Islands.

However, for security reasons, there will be a change to the daily operations of the Onigara Ferry.

From its last voyage on Thursday, June 24, 2010 to Monday, June 28, 2010, those travelling to and from Ward’s Island will not be permitted to access the Onigara Ferry. Island residents will have access to one of the public passenger ferries that will reroute to Ward’s Island for their convenience. Once docked at the mainland, all passengers (including Island residents) will exit the terminal via the west walkway.

Service vehicles travelling to and from the Islands must access the Bathurst Street Ferry and transit through the City Airport. Toronto Port Authority and Toronto Police personnel will escort all vehicles transiting through the airport to and from the Islands.

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Smitherman’s transportation plan: speed up subway construction, extend LRT

February 23rd, 2019

Mayoral candidate George Smitherman unveiled a transportation plan that would speed up the construction of the Spadina subway extension, extend light rail transit and do more tunneling underground, without imposing road tolls, if he is elected.

Mr. Smitherman called it an “integrated” plan that is divided into two phases, the first of which would finish the Spadina line in time for the PanAm Games in 2015, extend the Sheppard LRT, already underway, to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus. He made the announcement at a fundraiser today in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Mr. Smitherman wants to extend the tunneled portion of the Eglinton LRT to Weston Road, where it can link up with an air-rail link. By 2020 he would build the Finch West LRT, connect the Sheppard subway to Downsview station, and turn the Scarborough RT into a subway. He also proposed extending the Bloor line to Sherway Gardens by 2020.

He said the way to afford the plan, which costs $7-billion more than is currently committed to transit, is to “contract with the private sector.”

“In this model, the public always owns the lines and pays for them over time,” he said.

He proposed setting up a “Transit Trust Fund” that would pay for the expansion and would be made up of the city’s share of the gas tax, dividends from Toronto Hydro, parking authority and development fees.

He also announced that if elected, seniors will ride for free between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., which critics point out will result in revenue loss for the TTC.

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West End shootings linked: Police Chief

February 23rd, 2019

The two shootings that rocked Winnipeg’s West End this week, killing one teen and injuring three other children are linked after all, according to Winnipeg Police.

Chief Keith McCaskill appeared personally at the scheduled police news conference for a second day in a row to update the public on the investigation into the spree of gun violence.

Two men opened fire on a group of people sitting outside a home on Toronto Street Tuesday, killing 16 year old Kyle Earl and wounding a 13 year old boy. Another armed man pursued the attackers on foot and opened fire on Agnes Street; bullets struck two cars but no one was injured. Police said those shootings were likely gang related.

On Wednesday someone opened fire on a home on nearby Victor Street; two girls aged 8 and 10 were injured. Police arrested a 14 year old suspect in connection with that shooting but McCaskill told reporters Thursday the incident was not linked to the shooting on Toronto Street.

That story changed Friday when a 19 year old man was arrested: police say he had been present at the home that was shot up at 646 Toronto Street Tuesday, and is the one who chased and opened fire on the assailants. Police say the 19 year old also played some role in the Victor Street shooting the next day. McCaskill said the house where the little girls were hit was a backdrop to the shooting and not an intended target.

But in an indication, perhaps, of a neighbourhood gripped with fear of gangs and gun violence, a teenage girl living in the Victor Street house told Global News she feels she was targeted personally by the 14 year old boy arrested in connection with the shooting.

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Tories ‘deeply regret’ smear of India’s security force

February 23rd, 2019

OTTAWA – Immigration Minister Jason Kenney apologized Friday for the "false aspersions" cast on Indian defence and security forces by Canadian consular officials who referred to India’s Border Security Force as a "notoriously violent" unit which attacked civilians and tortured criminals.

The relations-chilling comment – which has made headline news in India all week – was linked to reports that said visa applications by about half a dozen current and former defence, intelligence and security officials were rejected by Canadian officials in the last 18 months.

Kenney said the government "deeply regrets the recent incident in which letters drafted by public service officials during routine visa refusals to Indian nationals cast false aspersions on the legitimacy of work carried out by Indian defence and security institutions, which operate under the framework of democratic processes and the rule of law."

Kenney said a review of visa-screening policy was underway.

"Canada has the highest regard for India, its government institutions and processes," he added.

The dispute appears to have come to a head as a result of publicity by retired Border Security Force trooper Fateh Singh Pandher, whose visa-rejection letter described his former employer as a "notoriously violent paramilitary unit stationed in sensitive areas, attacking civilians and torturing suspected criminals."

The apology was reportedly accepted by India’s External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna.

"I think they have realized their mistakes," he was quoted as saying in local media. "We should consider the chapter closed."

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Spain’s downgrade fresh blow for Europe

February 23rd, 2019

NEW YORK — World equities slid and the euro fell on Friday after a downgrade of Spain’s credit rating sent a new chill through markets already worried about the European debt crisis.

The downgrade by Fitch Ratings ignited a new round of selling in equities that were already lower after lacklustre U.S. economic data injected a note of caution ahead of long holiday weekends in both the United States and the UK.

Fitch downgraded Spain’s credit rating to AA-plus, and said it expects the country’s adjustment to a lower debt level will materially reduce its rate of economic growth over the medium-term.

Fitch cited an inflexible labour market and a restructuring of of regional and local savings banks as hindrances to the pace of adjustment.

"This should exacerbate the tremendous volatility we’ve seen in global stocks as the world wrestles with the idea of a debt-based collapse," said Chip Hanlon, president of Delta Global Advisors in Huntington Beach, Calif.

"Adding to this is the fact that no one wants to be long over a holiday weekend."

Analysts at Brown Brothers Harrison said they do not expect this to be the last downgrade for Spain.

“Believe it or not, Moody’s still has Spain as a triple-A credit,” said Win Thin, senior currency strategist at the New York-based firm. “We don’t think that can last, and we stress again that we see multiple downgrades ahead for Spain. Indeed, Spain is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Greece and Portugal are small countries, but Spain is about five times their size with regards to GDP.”

The euro took the downgrade on the chin, giving up all Friday’s gains and is now flirting with US$1.23 level.

“We commend the ratings agencies in general for the impeccable timing of their announcements, coming today in holiday-thinned conditions as both U.S. and U.K. shut down ahead of Monday holidays,” Mr. Thin said. “In general, this should serve as a reminder that while the news stream out of Europe was generally quiet this week, the potential and risk is for more bad news to emerge from time to time and roil markets. Spain is coming increasingly into the crosshairs due to negative developments in its banking system, and the lines of contagion from Greece are growing."

The euro fell as low as US$1.2284, according to electronic trading platform, near a session of US$1.2281.

The euro also dropped versus the yen, and was last down 0.9 % at 111.59 yen.

The major U.S. stock indexes shed more than 1%, and U.S. Treasuries slightly extended gains, hitting session highs after the Fitch downgrade. Benchmark 10-year notes were last up 18/32 in price, yielding 3.30%.

Investors had been shunning risk even before the Fitch downgrade on Spain.

A Commerce Department report that U.S. consumer spending failed to rise in April after six straight months of gains, cast a cloud over the outlook for the consumer-driven U.S. economy. Traders were particularly cautious ahead of long holiday weekends in London and New York, and ready to step back and take profits after a strong equities rally on Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 119.94 points, or 1.17%, at 10,139.05. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 15.13 points, or 1.37%, at 1,087.93. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC was down 32.14 points, or 1.41%, at 2,245.54.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq had each fallen more than 1% earlier in the day, though had pared losses sharply before the news on Spain sparked a new wave of selling.

In Toronto the S&P/TSX composite index deepened losses, falling 71.6 points to 11,677.5.

Technology bellwether Apple Inc AAPL.O managed to buck the downtrend, after Asian and European customers mobbed stores as the iPad tablet computer debuted outside the United States. Apple shares rose 1.5 %. Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised its price target on Apple by US$25 to US$325 and kept its "buy" rating.

But still pressuring global shares and the euro was concern of contagion from the Greece debt crisis. Despite the lack of major shocks from Spain, Portugal or Ireland, which all have heavy debt loads, investors were still loathe to add risky assets due to questions of how shakier sovereign credit would affect the economic recovery.

© Thomson Reuters 2010

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Lightning bolt knocks off piece of Winnipeg church

January 23rd, 2019

WINNIPEG – A lightning strike Friday morning knocked off a chunk of the stone bell tower atop Winnipeg’s stately Knox United Church, sending it crashing about 25 metres to the street below.

No one was injured, according to the fire department.

The boulder-like chunk, measuring more than one metre in diameter, slammed down onto the front steps of the church, then caromed into the street, narrowly missing vehicles.

The steps of the historic church were badly damaged.

There was no one inside Knox United at the time of the bizarre incident; however, a day care nearby was evacuated as a precaution.

"A spire came crashing down. Apparently it got hit by lightning and came crashing down," said Pastor Bill Millar of Knox United. "In the end, it’s a building . . . nobody was hurt."

Knox United is one of the city’s oldest places of worship and has been designated a Manitoba heritage site. It was constructed between 1914 and 1918.


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